Supporting Leadership and Positive Learning Cultures through Professional Nurse Advocacy

Julia (@juliafairhall3) is an Assistant Director of Nursing at a community trust. Her work portfolio focuses on quality, patient safety and workforce development Julia’s passions are in Community Nursing, learning and development and psychological safety. Julia is a qualified District Nurse and Queen’s Nurse and is a Florence Nightingale Foundation Emerging leader scholar for 2021. Julia is passionate, motivated and feels very strongly about visible and compassionate leadership and its importance in the work place.

COVID-19 has challenged the NHS over the past 18 months to an extent that is now demonstrating a significant impact on both resources and staffing in terms of health and wellbeing with particular reference to staff’s psychological safety and ability to continue to consistently deliver key services. In England, the Chief Nursing Officer in March 2021 announced the introduction of the Professional Nurse Advocate (PNA) role which is a leadership and advocacy role designed to support nurses to deliver safe and effective practice involving the use of restorative supervision. Having undertaken the PNA programme in June 2021 I will reflect in this blog on the importance of the role in line with compassionate leadership.

Establishing high quality, compassionate healthcare is a priority in the NHS. Compassionate leadership ensures shared focus leading to a combined responsibility for delivering and ensuring high quality care (West et al 2014). Compassionate leadership connects the ethos of creating positive supportive learning environments for staff; leading to staff role modelling a caring supportive environment for patients which further lends itself to the delivery of quality care for our patients (West 2017).

Compassionate leadership adds caring and kindnesses to collaborative and shared leadership, which highlight the underpinning values and practice for which are both important for staff and patient outcomes. Central to this leadership style is the need for individuals, teams, and organisations to align. Harnessing this approach leads to establishing structures that consistently look for quality improvement and learn together from errors. Inclusive leadership accentuates the importance of both “establishing and maintaining consistent, authentic interactions and relationships, which engage and empower diverse individuals within teams to focus on patients and lead innovation” (West 2017).

Throughout my own PNA journey, my personal learning has been vast and allowed me to reflect on my role, my leadership values and the importance of health and wellbeing alongside self-awareness. I feel the PNA role is imperative to the recovery of nurses from the unprecedented events of the last 18 months which have had a significant impact on the NHS, workloads, demand and capacity. The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn on the psychological health of nurses dealing with the emotional consequences of the pandemic on patients and their families. It would be fair to acknowledge we are only just starting to see these ramifications surface. The role of the PNA means that we now have focussed qualified nurses who can support interventions which aid and empower the resilience of our staff alongside working in an environment with a positive learning culture thereby contributing to the drive for high quality patient care and improved staff health and well-being.


West, M.A., Eckert, R., Steward, K. and Pasmore, W.A., 2014.Developing collective leadership for health care (Vol. 36). London: King’s Fund.

West, M.A. and Chowla, R., 2017. Compassionate leadership for compassionate health care. In Compassion (pp. 237-257). Routledge.


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